Is Chicken On Your Grocery List? You Might Be Due For A Payout

Last week, chicken giants Fieldale, George's, Mar Jac, Peco, Pilgrim's, and Tyson agreed to a $181 million settlement in an antitrust class action lawsuit. Food & Wine reports that this settlement also allows the companies to deny all charges.

The settlement has entered a period in which eligible people can make their claim to a payout on the website According to the website's FAQ section, if you bought a chicken at any point from January 1, 2009 to December 31, 2020 in certain states, you are eligible. The states on the list are California, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Wisconsin, and the District of Columbia — areas that comprise most of the densest population centers of the country.

However, it will still be a long while before settlement money is distributed. The final approval of the settlement will occur on December 20, 2021, and the period in which you can make your claim ends on December 31, 2022.

Then you have to consider how many people have probably bought a chicken in those states during the decade. So, the settlement probably will deliver more of a pleasant, if inconsequential, surprise than a big payout.

Settlements are a common occurrence

If the settlement seems small to the people receiving the payout, it seems even more so to the companies doing the actual paying. In fact, this settlement is even smaller than the one Tyson Foods alone agreed to pay earlier this year. On January 19, Reuters reported that Tyson responded to the charges of price fixing with a $221.5 million settlement.

On October 15, 2020, Food & Wine covered the settlement of $110 million that Pilgrim's Pride came to with the Department of Justice over the issue of price fixing. Just two weeks ago, MarketWatch posted an Associate Press piece about Tyson Foods and Perdue paying out $35 million to chicken farms who had accused them of price fixing. In every case, as Modern Farmer notes, the settlements do not require the company to admit to wrongdoing. 

It's almost as if these companies see paying the settlement less as a penalty for price fixing than as a license fee to continue their business practice. This, however, might change as the Biden administration has recently announced its intention to bring more scrutiny to the meat industry.